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Opening a gap, two teams with lost weekends and stealing two points

These are the three things I think I learned this weekend.

1. The regular season title is Boston College’s to lose.

The Eagles created more separation at the top of the Hockey East standings, defeating Boston University and Maine, while no other league team picked up four points in the standings. With a 10-1-1 Hockey East record, they now hold a six-point lead over their closest competitor.

Massachusetts-Lowell looks like the one team that could threaten BC, in part because those two teams appear to be the class of the league and also because the River Hawks are the one contender that not only holds three games in hand on BC but also plays the Eagles twice late in the season.

2. New Hampshire and Boston University were the only teams to lose twice on the weekend.

A couple of years ago, I’d have had a tough time imagining the writing of that last sentence. But it’s the new reality.

New Hampshire got swept by sixth-ranked Union, which is no disgrace and also has no effect on the Hockey East standings. But it does drop the Wildcats to a 1-8 record against Top 10 teams. They’ve done considerably better against teams ranked 11th-20th, but until they prove otherwise, it looks like there’s a ceiling on how far this team can go.

For BU, the talk isn’t about ceilings but floors.  The Terriers’ two losses this weekend came at the hands of BC and Lowell, so those were four lost points in the standings. It’s almost gotten to the point of kicking a team when it’s down, but the Terriers’ performance in the first period against Lowell spoke volumes. They were outshot 19-2.

Can anyone recall the last time BU ranked ninth in Hockey East scoring this late in the season?  I can’t.

And now that top defensemen Matt Grzelcyk is reportedly out for the season, the outlook appears even more grim.  Unless the Terriers start winning, this may be the last I discuss their plight.

3. Northeastern stole an important two points on Friday.

The Huskies moved into second place with a 3-2 win over Vermont that defied logic. They were outshot 48-19, and after two periods they led 1-0 despite being outshot 34-11.

Of course, there was some logic to the win. Clay Witt has been a revelation in goal this season — a save percentage of .943! — and he was a stud in net on this night. Additionally, Braden Pimm, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period, may be the least appreciated 15-goal scorer in college hockey.

That said, since Vermont won the following evening, the Catamounts have to be kicking themselves over the lost opportunity, especially since the loss counted as a league game and the win did not.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 17-21

Here I was thinking I had an awful week of picks last week. Until I realized that Dave was equally as bad.

Jim last week: 6-4-1
Dave last week: 6-4-1
Jim to-date: 102-51-20
Dave to-date: 98-55-20

Friday, January 16

Boston University at Boston College
Jim’s pick: Though they say throw out the records when these two teams meet, when the records are this different I can’t do as such.
BC 4, BU 2
Dave’s pick: If BU were playing better, throwing out the records just might make some sense but not  now.
BC 5, BU 2

Vermont at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: I’ve been impressed by both of these teams thus far but think home ice could be the difference here.
NU 3, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed, even on the score, although I feel like I’m oh-for-the-season with the Huskies.
NU 3, UVM 2

Maine at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: If Lowell wasn’t coming off a loss, I might be tempted to pick against them. But this River Hawks team should be hungry enough to win on home ice.
UML 3, Maine 1
Dave’s pick: I’ve liked what I’ve seen from Maine, and Lowell has been more inconsistent than the juggernaut we saw last year, but I’m still going with the River Hawks.
UML 3, Maine 2 (OT)

Providence at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: I have a feeling this series is going to be a split. But I’ve been burned really bad calling splits this season so I’m picking both for the Friars.
PC 4, CC 2
Dave’s pick: Too bad.  I wish Jimmy went with a split because I’ll be stunned if the Friars don’t sweep the 2-15-3 Tigers. (Even though PC has only a tie in its last four games.)
PC 5, CC 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: LSSU is a better team than most think. But Notre Dame, especially at home, is darn good too.
ND 3, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: I’ve been disappointed in the Irish this year. I mean, 3-5-1 in league play is far from what I expected. But only a tough-looking schedule down the stretch keeps me from thinking they won’t crank it up a notch.
ND 4, LSSU 2

Merrimack at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: Nothing thus far tells me that Merrimack has the weapons to beat an excellent Quinnipiac squad.
QU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: I spent all least year doubting Quinnipiac. Not again.
QU 4, MC 1

Union at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: This series should tell us a lot about how good a team New Hampshire is. And again, though thinking a split, I think a sweep will be my pick.
UNH 3, Union 2
Dave’s pick: I cry unfair! Jimmy has taken my patented “should be a split, but I’m picking a sweep” mantra and stolen it. That makes this monkey see, monkey do.
UNH 4, Union 3

Saturday, January 18

Maine at Boston College
Jim’s pick: After how much Maine impressed me last weekend, it’s hard to think I’d pick the Black Bears to lose twice. But that’s exactly what I’m doing.
BC 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: Same here. BC is just too good, especially considering the venue.
BC 4, Maine 2

Boston University at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: On paper this should be all River Hawks. I’m betting with paper.
UML 3, BU 2
Dave’s pick: Not to be harsh, but if the Terriers were a stock, I’d be selling for whatever I could get.
UML 4, BU 1

Quinnipiac at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Even on home ice, I don’t think Merrimack can beat QU.
QU 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Unfortunately, I can’t disagree. I’d really like an easier foe so I could go with the Warriors, but not against Quinnipiac.
QU 3, MC 2

Lake Superior at Notre Dame
Jim’s pick: Another home sweep for the Irish.
ND 4, LSSU 2
Dave’s pick: Grrrr.  I can’t make up any ground matching Jim’s picks, but I just don’t see Notre Dame losing this game.
ND 3, LSSU 2

Vermont at Northeastern (NC)
Jim’s pick: Though I feel like Vermont could win, I’m not confident enough to pick that way.
NU 2, UVM 1
Dave’s pick: Do I pick Vermont just to differ with Jim?  No, I’m going with the picks I wrote down before seeing his choices. I do think it’ll be a higher-scoring game than Jim does.
NU 4, UVM 3 (OT)

Providence at Colorado College
Jim’s pick: My heart says split, my pick says sweep.
PC 4, CC 3
Dave’s pick: I wish Jimmy had gone with his heart, because every molecule of my body is screaming PC sweep here. (If not, the Friars’ current mini-slump becomes a cause for concern.)
PC 4, CC 1

Union at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: See above. Ditto.
UNH 4, Union 3
Dave’s pick: Well, I’m not picking against BC on Tuesday, so this is my last opportunity to disagree with Jim. If I don’t, then this will be the first time in a  very long time (ever?) that we’ve totally matched picks.  On my sheet of paper, I had UNH sweeping, but I’m feeling boxed in here so… I’m going to reverse course just to disagree. But I don’t feel good about this….
Union 3, UNH 2 (OT)

Tuesday, January 21

Boston College at Merrimack
Jim’s pick: Things don’t get much easier for the Warriors.
BC 4, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed.  I can’t pick against the Eagles these days.
BC 5, MC 2

 

Rain delays, panic buttons and a sign of life

Yes, you can have a rain delay in hockey. That leads my list of three things I learned this week in Hockey East:

1. If you play hockey at a baseball stadium, expect a rain delay

Rain delay isn’t a term that hockey fans are familiar with, but on Saturday those in attendance at Frozen Fenway had the unique opportunity to experience such a delay. Thunder, lightning and heavy rains interrupted the first period of the game between Boston University and Maine at Fenway Park as part of the final game of Frozen Fenway. Credit to all those involved who worked extremely hard to get the ice surface back to playing shape in the delay that lasted 1 hour, 9 minutes. At the end of the day, somehow both hockey games were completed with Maine and Northeastern coming away winners.

2. Time to push the panic button at BU?

Anyone who tolerated the rain delay at Fenway now know that there is cause for concern for Boston University. The Terriers fell behind 5-0 to Maine before rallying to get within two before surrendering two empty-netters for a 7-3 final. The BU defense looked pedestrian for much of the first half of the game as Maine scored at will, including four first period goals. BU is 2-5-1 in Hockey East and sits in 10th place. There are still 12 league games left for BU, but this is quickly becoming a lost season for the struggling Terriers and first-year head coach David Quinn.

3. Merrimack back to winning ways

Merrimack had plenty of reason for concern heading to Clarkson for a two-game series this weekend. The Warriors entered the weekend with just a single win in their last 10 games (1-6-3) and were headed on the road to face a very good team in 11th-ranked Clarkson. A rally on Friday night to tie the game was spoiled as Merrimack fell, 3-2. But Saturday’s 4-0 shutout provided a lot of good signs for the struggling Warriors club. For starters, the Warriors potted four goals (one was an empty netter) and two of those came on the power play, something that needs to click if Merrimack is to have any success. On top of that, Rasmus Tirronen finished the game with a 34-save shutout. It is still a long-way back for the Warriors, but Saturday’s win could be the jump start this team needs.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 10-14

I picked up a single game on Jim last week. I don’t know whether that’s good news because it’s improvement or bad news because I needed more.

Dave last week: 7-3-4
Jim last week: 6-4-4
Dave’s record-to-date: 92-51-19
Jim’s record-to-date: 96-47-19

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Jan. 10

Providence at Boston College
Dave’s pick: Jon Gillies may be back, but the Friars have hit a few potholes. BC isn’t the right team to be facing now.
BC 3, PC 1
Jim’s pick: Home ice may be the deciding factor here.
BC 3, PC 2

Merrimack at Clarkson
Dave’s pick: Clarkson is 12-2-1 against everyone else, but 0-4-1 against Hockey East. That would argue for picking the Warriors, but they’re still winless on the road.
Clarkson 3, MC 2
Jim’s pick: Clarkson has just enough talent to beat the offensively-challenged Warriors.
Clarkson 3, MC 1

Massachusetts at Cornell
Dave’s pick: The momentum the Minutemen had been picking up before the holiday break seems all gone now. Cornell is just too good, especially at Lynah.
Cornell 4, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: If this was a home game for UMass, I’d be tempted to pick the Minutemen. The fact is, it’s not.
Cornell 3, UMass 2

Alabama-Huntsville at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: It’s great that the Chargers kept their program alive, but at 1-21-0 they’re easy pickings for the Irish.
ND 5, UAH 1
Jim’s pick: No brainer here.
ND 6, UAH 2

Saturday, Jan. 12

Frozen Fenway: Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Northeastern
Dave’s pick: Both teams are coming on strong now, but the River Hawks are the stronger of the two.
UML 3, NU 2
Jim’s pick: This is a tough one to pick given that NU won the first meeting. I assume Lowell won’t hit four posts this time.
UML 4, NU 2

Frozen Fenway: Maine vs. Boston University
Dave’s pick: The Terriers just lost at home to a 2-11-2 Dartmouth team, running their winless  streak to five games.
Maine 4, BU 1
Jim’s pick: This one shouldn’t be close. Though it likely will be.
Maine 3, BU 2

Boston College at Brown
Dave’s pick: Brown has played .500 hockey this year. That ain’t good enough against the Eagles.
BC 5, Brown 2
Jim’s pick: Agree. This is BC’s game to lose.
BC 3, Brown 2

Dartmouth vs. New Hampshire
Dave’s pick: UNH may be going places this year; Dartmouth isn’t.
UNH 4, DC 2
Jim’s pick: Very tough pick given that Dartmouth made BU look bad at home. Manchester has rarely been kind to UNH either. I’m going Green.
DC, 3 UNH 2

Merrimack at Clarkson
Dave’s pick: I’d be picking the Warriors to split at home, but not on the road.
Clarkson 3, MC 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: This is one good, and very hungry, Clarkson team.
Clarkson 4, MC 1

Vermont at Colgate
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts are 8-1-2 over their last 11. I’m lumbering onto that bandwagon.
UVM 4, Colgate 2
Jim’s pick: I’d feel better if this was in Vermont. No sure the Cats can handle a tough road game against a team that just tied and beat No. 1 and No. 2.
Colgate 3, UVM 2

Alabama-Huntsville at Notre Dame
Dave’s pick: Anything I say at this point would seem like picking on the Chargers. So I’ll just list the score.
ND 6, UAH 1
Jim’s pick: Second night is typically a lot tighter for the Chargers. Doesn’t mean it’s a win..
ND 3, UAH 2

Tuesday, Jan. 14

American International at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: UMass has struggled in its last few games, but the Yellow Jackets are 1-10 over their last 11.
UMass 4, AIC 1
Jim’s pick: Western Mass. battle goes to the hosts.
UMass 4, AIC 2

 

The effect of World Juniors, facing a team three times, and teams going in different directions

These are three things I think I learned this past week.

1. Some teams handled the loss of their players to the World Juniors better than others.

This isn’t exactly front page news since you’d expect this outcome, at least to some extent.  And a number of players, most notably from Boston College and Notre Dame, made it back for this weekend’s games.

But it is noteworthy that despite missing goaltender Thatcher Demko and defensemen Ian McCoshen and Steven Santini, BC didn’t miss a beat. The Eagles now own a five-game winning streak.

On the other hand, Providence only went 1-1-1 without goaltender stud Jon Gillies. Nick Ellis didn’t play poorly at all in Gillies’s absence, but Ellis didn’t match the 10-1-3 record and .941 save percentage of the Friars’ most important player.

Update: I overlooked a fourth game that Providence played without Gillies: a Dec. 20 win over Army. This means Ellis was actually 2-1-1 while Gillies was away. Ellis’s stats were very good against the three teams he faced with losing records: he stopped  19-of-20 shots against Army (3-14-0), 21-of-23 shots against Dartmouth (2-11-2), and 30-of-31 shots against Merrimack (4-9-3).

Obviously, those are strong results, which includes two wins and a tie with Merrimack.

The one game, though, where you could argue that Gillies’s absence cost the Friars was their one loss, 3-2 to Air Force. Ellis stopped 27-of-30 shots.

That’s not to scapegoat Ellis for not quite being Gillies’s equal. You could probably count on one hand the goalies in the country who are, and my guess is that there are plenty of teams who’d welcome Ellis with open arms.

But would Gillies have pulled out a tie or a win? I think there’s a good chance.

(Teams like Notre Dame and Boston University were fortunate enough to have their schedules line up in such a way that their World Juniors participants didn’t miss a game.)

2. Massachusetts-Lowell proved that you can beat the same team three times in a week. Almost.

One prevailing thought is that you can’t beat a good team three times in a short span of time. A week ago, the River Hawks defeated Clarkson (at the time 12-4-1) in the Catamount Cup, and then faced the Golden Knights again this past weekend.

Lowell didn’t quite sweep, but wound up with five of six points in the three games, proving how tough the River Hawks are likely to be down the stretch.

3. Perennial powers New Hampshire and BU are going in opposite directions.

UNH took on 19th-ranked Nebraska-Omaha last weekend and swept in impressive fashion, 6-3 and 5-2. Other than getting swept by BC before the break, the Wildcats have now won five of their last six games.

At the other end of the spectrum, BU is increasingly looking like a team in trouble. Winless in their last four games, the Terriers took only a single point of four in a home-and-home series with a Merrimack team that had still been looking for its first Hockey East win at the time. Then they lost at home to Atlantic Hockey ‘s Bentley Falcons. This past weekend, BU lost to a 4-7-2 Harvard team. BU fans have a right to be very concerned.

Hockey East picks – Jan. 3-8

Dave and I only picked one game different – the Vermont/Clarkson game – and I got it correct, further opening up my lead.

Jim last week: 9-4-3
Jim to-date: 90-43-15
Dave last week: 8-5-3
Dave to-date: 85-48-15

Friday, January 3

Maine at Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: Here are two teams both playing excellent hockey right now. I’m am going with Quinnipiac simply because of home ice. Maine hasn’t won on the road and the Bobcats are solid are home.
QU 3, Maine 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Maine played well on neutral ice in Florida last week, but still must prove itself on the road.
QU 4, Maine 2

Clarkson at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: It wasn’t an easy win for Lowell but last Sunday at the Catamount Cup was a win over the Golden Knights. I feel like the River Hawks should win again.
UML 3, CU 1
Dave’s pick: Even though the Knights are 6-2-0 on the road, I’m not believing they’re as good as their record. At home, the River Hawks should prevail.
UML 4, CU 2

Nebraska-Omaha at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: This is one I’m struggling with as UNH hasn’t been consistent and UNO has played above expectations all season. Even at home, I think I’m going with the Mavericks.
UNO 4, UNH 3
Dave’s pick: UNH has been tough to predict all year and is still a game under .500 at home, but I can’t see the Mavericks emerging with a win here.
UNH 4, UNO 3

Dartmouth at Vermont
Jim’s pick: This is the end of a long homestand for Vermont in which the Cats have been near perfect.
UVM 4, DC 2
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts shouldn’t allow a 2-11-1 team to come into their barn and come out with a win.
UVM 5, DC 1

Saturday, January 4

Frozen Fenway (at Fenway Park, Boston)
Providence vs. Merrimack
Jim’s pick: These teams have had some great games against one another in recent years and this is on a big stage at Fenway. Doubtful that Jon Gillies will be back from World Juniors but still think Providence can prevail.
PC 3, MC 2
Dave’s pick: Without Gillies, the Friars are vulnerable, but Merrimack doesn’t have the firepower to take advantage.
PC 2, MC 1

Notre Dame vs. Boston College
Jim’s pick: Again, whether or not players will return from World Juniors in time for this game could be a major factor. Notre Dame really relies on Hinostroza, maybe more than BC its three players. So this prediction is a bit of a coin flip.
BC 4, Notre Dame 3
Dave’s pick: The Irish only had three wins and a tie in their last nine going into the break, so I’m seeing an easier win for the Eagles than Jim does.
BC 4, Notre Dame 2

Boston University at Harvard
Jim’s pick: In this potential Beanpot preview, I like the Terriers.
BU 5, Harvard 3
Dave’s pick: I’m picking the lesser of two evils here since I don’t like the way either team has played. But even though the Terriers are on the road, I think they’re the better team. Barely.
BU 4, Harvard 3 (OT)

Massachusetts at Northeastern
Jim’s pick: Despite UMass playing some decent games of late and Northeastern struggling, I’m going with the Huskies at home.
NU 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: It seems as though the Northeastern bandwagon got a flat as soon as I jumped on board, and I’m not feeling good about picking a team that gave up 13 goals last weekend. But I’m going with the Huskies’ firepower that scored eight times to forge a comeback tie with Dartmouth.
NU 4, UMass 3

Clarkson at Massachusetts-Lowell
Jim’s pick: It’s difficult to beat a team three times in a week, but I think Lowell is capable.
UML 4, CU 2
Dave’s pick: I’m not that big on the difficulty of beating a team three times in a week; I am big on the River Hawks being the superior team despite Clarkson’s 12-5-1 record.
UML 4, CU 2

Nebraska-Omaha at New Hampshire
Jim’s pick: Picking splits haven’t been a good thing for me this season, yet, I’m going to do it again.
UNH 3, UNO 1
Dave’s pick: I’m going with the Wildcats to sweep and kick off a strong second-half run.
UNH 3, UNO 2

Yale at Vermont
Jim’s pick: The defending national champs won’t allow Vermont to end its homestand on a positive note.
Yale 4, UVM 2
Dave’s pick: The Bulldogs haven’t been playing like national champs, so I’m going with the Catamounts in an upset.
UVM 3, Yale 2 (OT)

Tuesday, January 7

Northeastern at Providence
Jim’s pick: Gillies should definitely be back to Providence which makes the Friars my pick at home.
PC 3, NU 1
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The Friars once again become one of the top teams in the league, if not the nation. Gillies is that good.
PC 4, NU 2

Vermont at St. Lawrence
Jim’s pick: Even away from home, I’m picking the Cats in this one.
UVM 3, SLU 2
Dave’s pick: St. Lawrence lost four straight going into the break, including a 5-1 tilt at Vermont, so I’m going for the Catamounts without hesitation.
UVM 4, SLU 2

Wednesday, January 8

Dartmouth at Boston University
Jim’s pick: Dartmouth has seen a lot of Hockey East lately and this one won’t end much better.
BU 4, DU 2
Dave’s pick: Dartmouth proves to be what the doctor ordered for a Terriers team that ranked as one of the bigger first-half disappointments in Eastern hockey.
BU 4, DU 1

Two wins can’t take Catamount Cup for Lowell; Vermont’s last second goal breaks tie

When is two wins not enough to win a holiday tournament? Just ask the Massachusetts-Lowell River Hawks. That leads off the three things I learned this weekend:

1) Two wins but not enough goals denies Catamount Cup for Lowell

UMass Lowell seemingly took care of business this past weekend at the Catamount, beating Canisius, 5-2, and Clarkson, 3-1. But that wasn’t enough to take home the tournament championship. The only tournament this year that used a predetermined field, Lowell did not face Vermont, which beat Clarkson, 3-2, in Saturday’s opener, in what would be a true championship game scenario. Thus, both the River Hawks and Catamounts wound up with two wins apiece. The tournament’s tie breaker if teams were tied was the overall number of goals scored, not goal differential as is often used in international tournaments where there is a round robin to open. So when Vermont’s Jake Fallon scored with just two seconds left in Sunday’s final game, the Catamounts had a 6-2 victory and nine total goals, one more than the runner-up River Hawks. Still, come season’s end, both Lowell and Vermont will be more than happy to come out of this weekend with two victories.

2) Maine doesn’t lose but still can’t take home Florida title

Lowell wasn’t the only team without a loss this weekend that didn’t win their tournament. After a 4-0 win over Princeton in the semifinals of the Florida College Classic, the Black Bears tied Cornell, 1-1, in the final. That led to a shootout that went nine rounds before Cornell finally scored the game-winner. Which leads me to another pet peeve about holiday tournaments: Why, when a trophy is on the line, can’t teams play unlimited overtimes? It’s certainly exciting for the fans who can wait for the dramatic championship-winning goal. I understand coaches might like the idea of knowing a game will be over after 65 minutes, but a shootout will never be my preferred way of determining a champion.

3) Thus far, a good weekend for Hockey East

The holiday tournaments will continue through tonight, but thus far Hockey East teams have impressed. With UMass, Northeastern and Providence still to play tonight, Hockey East is a combined 8-2-2 in non-conference holiday tournament play. Boston College and Vermont both captured holiday tournament titles, while Providence and will take on Air Force tonight for the title at the Ledyard Bank tournament at Dartmouth. The one place Hockey East hasn’t had success is in the aforementioned shootouts. In addition to Maine dropping a shootout against Cornell, UMass lost to Quinnipiac in a shootout and thus will face Connecticut in the consolation game of the UConn Holiday Classic.

Hockey East picks – Dec. 27-31

I had the best week of my year right before break giving me some breathing room over Dave.

Jim last week: 8-1-0
Jim to-date: 81-39-12
Dave last week: 5-4-0
Dave to-date: 77-43-12

Friday, December 27

Three Rivers Classic (Pittsburgh)
Boston College vs. Bowling Green
Jim’s pick: Jerry York may be facing his old squad, but don’t expect BC to have any mercy.
BC 5, BSGU 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Even coming out of the holiday break with the rust that involves as well as the players away at the World Juniors, BC should have an easy time of it.
BC 4, BGSU 1

Saturday, December 27

Three Rivers Classic (Pittsburgh)
Boston College vs. Robert Morris/Penn State
Jim’s pick: I see the Eagles taking home the title regardless of opponent, even missing a few players to World Juniors.
BC 3, RMU 2; BC 4, PSU 2
Dave’s pick: I’m with Jimmy. The Eagles are the class of this tournament.
BC 4, RMU 2; BC 4, PSU 2

Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
New Hampshire vs. Cornell
Jim’s pick: This will be quite a test to begin the second half for the Wildcats. I think they will pass.
UNH 4, Cornell 2
Dave’s pick:  Even though Cornell comes in at 7-4-2 and UNH at only 9-9-1, I’m also going with the Wildcats.
UNH 3, Cornell 2

Maine vs. Princeton
Jim’s pick: Maine hasn’t played well away from Alfond, but as co-host, this should be Maine’s home-away-from-home
Maine 3, Princeton 2
Dave’s pick: Home or away, Maine is simply the superior team to the 3-12-0 Tigers.
Maine 4, Princeton 1

Catamount Cup (Burlington, Vt.)
Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Canisius
Jim’s pick: Lowell entered break a red-hot team. Will it continue into the second half? I think so.
UML 3, Canisius 1
Dave’s pick: I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see Lowell reprise its role last year as the nation’s top team down the stretch.
UML 4, Canisius 1

Clarkson at Vermont
Jim’s pick: This is a tough game to pick given Clarkson’s first-half success and Vermont’s success at home. I’m going with home ice.
UVM 4, Clarkson 2
Dave’s pick: Catamount fans aren’t going to be happy with this pick, but I just can’t ignore Clarkson’s 12-3-1 record.
Clarkson 4, UVM 2

Sunday, December 29

Florida College Classic (Estero, Fla.)
Consolation/Championship
Jim’s pick: I think this is Maine’s tournament to win and UNH will beat any team except Maine on the second night.
Maine 3, UNH 2 (OT); UNH 4, Princeton 2; Maine 4, Cornell 2

Dave’s pick: I think it’s UNH’s tournament to win and Maine will beat any team except UNH on the second night.
UNH 3, Maine 2; UNH 4, Princeton 2; Maine 3, Cornell 2

Catamount Cup (Burlington, Vt.)
Massachusetts-Lowell vs. Clarkson
Jim’s pick: The River Hawks can’t play host Vermont as this is a set-field tournament. Thus, they might head back to Lowell champions without even knowing it. That’s what I think will happen.
UML 4, Clarkson 2
Dave’s pick: I need to disagree more with Jim to make up ground, but I can’t disagree.
UML 4, Clarkson 2

Vermont vs. Canisius
Jim’s pick: Cats continue to roll at home.
UVM 3, Canisius 1
Dave’s pick: Once again, Jim and I agree.
UVM 4, Canisius 1

UConn Holiday Classic (Storrs, Conn.)
Massachusetts vs. Quinnipiac
Jim’s pick: This is the first time I’m picking against at Hockey East team, but Quinnipiac is simply too good for UMass.
QU 4, UMass 2
Dave’s pick: UMass may have finished the first half strong with three wins in its last four, but Quinnipiac comes in at 13-3-3 with a 7-1-2 record at home.
QU 4, UMass 1

Ledyard Bank Classic (Hanover, N.H.)
Northeastern vs. Air Force
Jim’s pick: Air Force always plays well out of conference, but I think NU can handle the Falcons.
NU 4, AFA 1
Dave’s pick: I was slow to believe of the Huskies this season, but they’ve opened my eyes.
NU 4, AFA 2

Providence at Dartmouth
Jim’s pick: I’m very interested to see how Providence plays without Jon Gillies, who is at World Juniors. It was a downfall last year. I think the team in front is better this season.
PC 3, DC 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. The Friars aren’t as dependent on Gillies this year and are facing a 2-10-0 team. Even on Dartmouth’s home ice, Providence should prevail.
PC 4, DC 1

Monday, December 30

UConn Holiday Classic
Consolation/Championship
Jim’s pick: I think UMass wins on the second night regardless of opponent.
UMass 4, SHU 1; UMass 3, UConn 2
Dave’s pick: Once again, I have to agree. UConn has been tough on its home ice (5-1-1), but I’m with UMass.
UMass 3, SHU 1; UMass 3, UConn 2

Ledyard Bank Classic
Consolation/Championship
Jim’s pick: Could this be an all-Hockey East final? If so, I think the Friars come out on top. Actually, I think the Friars come out on top no matter what.
PC 4, NU 2; PC 3 DC 2; NU 5, AFA 2
Dave’s pick: Agreed. Providence and Northeastern are head-and-shoulders over Dartmouth and Air Force.
PC 3, NU 2; PC 4 DC 2; NU 4, AFA 2

Maine, UMass strong heading towards break; BU not so much

It was a pretty brief week for Hockey East teams, and thus my three things that I learned this week will be equally as brief. Here  we go:

1) Maine is climbing toward “legit”

I know this will draw the ire of some Black Bears fans, but I’ve had a difficult time calling this Maine team legit to this point. That said, reaching the break with a 9-6-1 mark and a 9-1-0 record inside the friendly confines of Alfond Arena is impressive. Now I know that the Black Bears beat a somewhat weak AIC squad this weekend, but wins at home against Massachusetts-Lowell, Boston College and Boston University tell me that this team is poised to be a potential sleeper (or should I say contender?) in the second half. The one issue that must be solved: winning on the road. A 0-5-1 mark away from home is cause for serious concern given that six of the next seven games for Maine will be away from home.

2) What should we make of UMass?

Massachusetts finished off a weekend road sweep of Colgate on Sunday giving the Minutemen three straight wins. But this streak follows an eight-game winless skid leaving me shaking my head as to what to make of this UMass team. The Minutemen still have one game left on Tuesday night when they host Denver, a team coming off a win and tie at Rensselaer. That game could be a statement game for UMass if there is to be any belief this team can finish in the top half of Hockey East.

3) And the Terriers remain inconsistent

Raise your hand if after BU’s win over Cornell at Madison Square Garden on Thanksgiving weekend that you began to have high hopes for the Terriers. I, for one, have my hand in the air. But a loss and tie to Merrimack followed by an ugly 4-1 loss against Bentley at home pushes BU to the break at 7-8-2 and in 10th place (albeit with games in hand) in Hockey East. BU, like Maine, is winless (0-5-0) on the road but has proved that there is little game-to-game consistency for this team.

Check back on Wednesday as I will be handing out mid-term grades for all 11 Hockey East teams.

Hockey East picks – Dec. 13-17

Unfortunately, Jim and I only disagreed on one game last week, the tie between Providence and Northeastern. So we both suffered identically disastrous results. Too much early dipping into the holiday eggnog.

Dave last week: 2-4-2
Jim last week: 2-4-2
Dave’s record-to-date: 72-39-12
Jim’s record-to-date: 73-38-12

Here are this week’s picks:

Friday, Dec. 13

American International at Maine
Dave’s pick: On Friday the 13th, the Alfond crowd gives AIC its best Freddy Krueger impersonation.
Maine 5, AIC 1
Jim’s pick: AIC will have to bring a lot more game than it did against Massachusetts-Lowell recently. They may keep one game vs. Maine close, but I see the Black Bears handling this weekend series with ease.
Maine 4, AIC 1

Saturday, Dec. 14

Massachusetts at Colgate
Dave’s pick: UMass may have gotten off the schneid in terms of road games last weekend at Notre Dame, but that 1-8-1 record away from the Mullins Center still leaves me with doubts.
Colgate 3, UMass 2
Jim’s pick: I agree with Dave that this is a tight game, but I like the Minutemen after getting some confidence at Notre Dame.
UMass 3, Colgate, 2

Bentley at Boston University
Dave’s pick: Bentley has lost by only a single goal to seventh-ranked Quinnipiac, Maine and (not counting empty-netters) Merrimack, so if the Terriers plan on just showing up, their disappointing first half is going to get even worse. But falling to 10th place has got to be an impossible-to-ignore wake-up call. Right?
BU 3, Bentley 2
Jim’s pick: This is one I don’t see staying close.
BU 5, Bentley 2

American International at Maine
Dave’s pick: Maine sweeps to drive its record at Alfond to 9-1-0.
Maine 4, AIC 1
Jim’s pick: A sweep it is.
Maine 3, AIC 2

St. Lawrence at Vermont
Dave’s pick: The Catamounts have won three straight at home.  Make it four.
UVM 3, SLU 2
Jim’s pick: Vermont is playing excellent hockey right now. It continues.
UVM 4, SLU 1

Sunday, Dec. 15

Massachusetts at Colgate
Dave’s pick: This weekend series has split written all over it, but I don’t want to “pull a Jimmy” and get two wrong picks for choosing the split the wrong way. So I’m going against every Hockey East bone in my body and opting for the Colgate split.
Colgate 3 UMass 2
Jim’s pick: And I will pick a sweep as well, just the other way.
UMass 4, Colgate 2

Tuesday, Dec. 17

Northeastern at Vermont
Dave’s pick: Home cooking proves decisive in this tight match-up, although the Catamounts need overtime to pull out the win.
UVM 4, NU 3 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Both teams are playing well but I am done picking against NU only to end up with egg on my face.
NU 3, UVM 2

Denver at Massachusetts
Dave’s pick: UMass fans may be saying, “He isn’t going to pick us to lose all three this week, is he?”  Sorry about that. The Pioneers have gotten off to only a modest start so far, but I still see them as too tough to top.
DU 3, UMass 2 (OT)
Jim’s pick: Even at home, I think Denver is one step above the Minutemen.
DU 4, UMass 2